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Introduction

1. Early Times
(1000 BCE - 1917)

2. Establishment of Israel (1880 - 1947)

3. The New State
(1947 - 1974)

 

 


The History of Israel
- A Chronological Presentation


4. Peace With The Arabs? (1997 - 2000)

1997-1999 - Hebron, Wye River and Sharm el-Sheikh
In August 1996 the peace negotiations were resumed, if at a somewhat lower pace. On January 15, 1997 Netanyahu and Arafat signed the "Hebron Agreement" about Israeli withdrawal from most of Hebron, the last major Palestinian city under Israeli control.

Arafat and Netanya-
hu, Wye River, 1998.

During 1997 Palestinian suicide bombing attacks, mainly committed by Hamas, claimed the lives of 44 Israeli civilians, while wounding some 400. But after a period of relative calm, Netanyahu and Arafat in October 1998 met under the auspices of US president Bill Clinton in order to negotiate the implementation of the Oslo II Agreement from 1995. They signed the so-called "Wye River Memorandum," which once again stressed the Palestinian obligations regarding security and prevention of terror. That autumn Hamas and Islamic Jihad conducted a string of terror attacks that claimed few deaths, while wounding nearly a hundred. Still Israel initiated the first of three land handovers described in the Wye agreement, after which the process again ground to a halt.

Areas transferred to Palesti-
nian control
according to the
Wye River agreement.

In May 1999 Ehud Barak and the Labor Party came to power in Israel, and in September the same year Barak and Arafat signed yet another agreement, the "Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum," the main theme once again being the Palestinians' noncompliance with their security obligations, and the consequent Israeli delays of planned troop withdrawals.

In the spring of 2000 Israel carried out some additional withdrawals, leaving 18% of the total area of the West Bank under the control of the Palestinian Authority (Area A), while 21% was under joint control (Area B). Even though the agreements were still not fully implemented, more than 95% of the Palestinian population in Gaza and the West Bank now lived under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli soldiers rejoicing, as they
cross the border from Lebanon,
March 2000.
 
 

2000 - Israel Leaves Lebanon
Ehud Barak's election promise of 1999 to bring back all the troops from the Israeli security zone in southern Lebanon was fulfilled on March 24, 2000, when the last tank under cover of darkness rolled across the internationally recognized border into Israel. The United Nations subsequently declared the withdrawal complete.

2000 - The Oslo Process in Difficulty
The Israeli withdrawals according to the Oslo agreements were never fully implemented. The reason was not only the Palestinians' lack of will or ability to prevent terror against Israeli civilians. On a number of additional points Arafat and the Palestinian Authority failed to honor their obligations.

Generally, the Oslo agreements called for the establishment of a democratic Palestinian society, and there were specific provisions demanding the introduction of a Palestinian legal system, operating independently of the political leadership. In reality, Arafat had created yet another Arab dictatorship, in which ordinary Palestinians had no basic democratic rights. The police force of the Authority, which, according to the agreements, were to be limited to 24.000, totaled at the end of the decade around twice that number. Moreover, the many different military factions, rather than being under the control of the Interior Ministry, to a large extend answered directly to Yasser Arafat.

The Jew, portrayed in classi-
cal anti-Semitic style, holds
the key to the US coffers,
P
alestinian newspaper, March
2000.

The Oslo II Agreement from 1995 also included a clause, which obligated the parties to contribute, through educational institutions and media, to the peace between the two peoples, and to fight the spread of propaganda against the other party. While Israel complied fully with this requirement, the Palestinian Authority continued, through its educational and religious institutions as well as the media, which were under Arafat's control, to promote an endless stream of anti-Israel propaganda.

The demanded removal of the passages in the PLO charter, which denied Israel's right to exist and called for the destruction of Israel, was also never carried out.

On the other hand, the Palestinians claimed that the ongoing expansions of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, not only sent a less than constructive message vis-a-vis the peace process, but were also inconsistent with the signed agreements. The latter claim was made with reference to a stipulation, which prohibited the parties from taking actions that could change the status of the territories before reaching a final peace deal. Conversely, Israel pointed out that there nowhere in the agreements were any limitations regarding the settlements, the issue of which were explicitly deferred to the upcoming final status negotiations.

2000 - Camp David, Breakdown of the Peace Process
In the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum of 1999, the date of September 13, 2000 was set as the deadline for a final peace agreement, and as this date drew nearer, the pressure on the political leaders to find a solution intensified. Arafat even threatened to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state, if no results emerged at the negotiating table.

 
Barak, Clinton and Arafat at Camp
David, July 2000.


 

In the months of March-May 2000, four suicide bombings claimed the lives of 8 Israelis and wounded more than 170. Still, the hope for a peaceful solution with the Palestinians was at its highest, when Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in July headed off to Bill Clinton's summer residence, Camp David, in order to participate in negotiations about a final peace deal.

After a few weeks of intense negotiations behind closed doors Clinton achieved Barak's acceptance of a proposal, according to which, a Palestinian state would encompass all of Gaza plus some 95% of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital and Palestinian control over parts of the Old City, including the Temple Mount (where Muslim religious buildings are situated atop the ruins of the ancient Jewish temple). In addition it was suggested that the Palestinians, as compensation for the inclusion of the largest
Bill Clinton's vision for a Pale-
stinian state in Gaza and most
of the West Bank (additional
land swaps not shown).

  
settlement
blocks into Israel, would receive a similar amount of land from Israel proper. In return Arafat was asked to declare an end to the conflict with Israel, and accept that no further demands would be made of Israel in the future.

But Arafat rejected the proposed solution, and then chose to leave the negotiations without making any counterproposal.

The deadline of September 13 passed, and the disappointment was great on both sides of the conflict. The atmosphere among the Palestinians was particularly tense, and on September 28, 2000 a visit by the Israeli oppositon leader, Ariel Sharon, to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem became the catalyst for Palestinian riots that soon developed into a regular, violent uprising under the name of "the Al-Aqsa Intifada" or "the Second Intifada."

In the fall of 2000 and January 2001, as the violence was raging, another few attempts were made at getting the negotiations back on track, with meetings in Washington and the Egyptian holiday resort of Taba. But the efforts proved unsuccessful, and the Oslo process had in reality broken irreversibly down.

Chapter 5, which is under development, will cover the period from September 2000 until today and include, among other subjects, the following: The Second Intifada, Operation "Defensive Shield", Israel's Security Barrier, "The Roadmap for Peace", Withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas' Rise to Power, The Second Lebanon War, Hamas' Takeover of Gaza and The Gaza Wars between Israel and Hamas.


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